As a farm boy from
Ozark Arkansas I never expected to be so far from home and before I joined
the Army Air Corp, most people had been farther under the bed looking
for a pot than I had been away from home.
I joined the air corp in 1943 and went through Primary at Ryan field in Tuscon, Arizona; Basic at Cal-Aero in Ontario, California and Advanced
at Pecos Texas. I was assigned to B-17 training at Hobbs New Mexico. It
did not take me long to determine that the vee shaped obstacle course
from the front of the plane to the bomb bay was a real hinderance to a
fellow as short as I, so I volunteered for B-29 pilot training and was
sent (Shanghied was a better word) to Pyote, Texas for training
Ford's class of 1944 Pyote (click to enlarge)
I wound up over Tokyo on our first mission on May, 25th 1945 on a fire
bombing raid. That was a booger -- first mission, at nite, scared witless.
Things went downhill from there, flying June 1, 5, 7, 13, 15, 17, 19,
21, 23, 25, 27, 29. The days sort of blended into take off, fly up, 7
1/2 hours, drop bombs, fly home 7 1/2 hours, sleep, eat and repeat the
process. I was dog tired but never too tired to write a letter to my wife
of 3 years. (We marry them young in Arknasas and keep them for life, 68 of them so far). Click here for Ford's mission list)
Ford, his wife Sula and Vickie
The assignment that
still stands out in my mind was flying Super Dumbo on a mission where
we were to look for a crew in the water near Tokyo. We dropped down through
the overcast about a hundred miles out and as we came out of the clouds,
there was a crew in lifeboats waving at us.
We circled and dropped
radio buoys and called up a submarine who instructed us to come over to
his location to fly cover for him on the surface. It was heartbreaking
to leave the crewmen in the water but off we went to the sub. Rain soon
covered the submarine and we had to climb out and leave him but he assured
us that he was ok in the rain. (The rescued crew visited us later).
We continued on to our assigned area and met with another sub as we looked
for the downed pilot. We discovered a wheel floating in Tokyo bay and
the sub insisted he go in for a closer look. We persuaded him that we
had searched the area thoroughly and there was no one in the water. He
had the guts of a government mule to go into Tokyo bay on the surface
with us flying cover for him.
and 9th found us on dumbo duty again about a hundred miles from the target
and were fortunate to see both atomic bombs go off and that is the "rest
of the story"
Home, and later with two children and many memories of the war years (fading fast)
I still thank the fellow who yelled at our president "give em hell Harry!!"
Top Row Left to Right: Glen Leaymon, Dalton Wells, Max Schofield, Raymond Reddick, Lawrence Russert, Stewart Wiggin
Bottom Row Left to right: Robert Croll, Henry Ford Tolbert, Ira Sammons, Walter Rothermund, Gale Reynolds
The William Allen White - the B-29 Ford flew many of his missions in.